Solo Travel: Anyone’s Game

I am now 2 weeks into my new life as a nomad… driving through states, sleeping out of my Prius, seeing incredible views, and posting up in Starbucks and McDonalds around the Southwest to steal Wi-Fi. There are so many things that I could take the time to write about right now, because I’ve experienced so many amazing things already, from time spent with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces, to strangers met on a cliff that helped me find my way back onto the correct trail, to panoramic views of the Sierra’s and a private car-camping site at the base of Mt. Whitney… but I’m going to take the next several hundred words to explain what I have experienced so far as a woman traveling alone.

Now, I haven’t been out long, mind you, so I’ll likely have more insights on this very thing in a month, 3 months, or a year. But so far, my experience has been a mixed bag. I’ve met several wonderful people who have been extremely kind, helpful, and enthusiastic about the fact that ya girl is out here roughin’ it in a car the size of a coffin. But I’ve also experienced some things that have given me pause… caused me to think and ask questions about the nature of our culture and society… how far we may or may not have come in the past 245 years of American history. First, let me begin by saying that the travel/nomad community is lovely. It’s full of people who are full of life, adventure, and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow could bring, and I love it! I met several such people at my first car camping spot in Las Cruces, New Mexico… young couples disenchanted with the grind of modern life who were exhilarated by the idea of living out of a van with their dogs or their baby. The conversations had with these people were energizing, exciting, and affirming… “Oh you’re also traveling indefinitely with no certain plans for stopping or returning to modern society?! Cool, me too… I must not be as crazy as I thought.”

It isn’t the nomad community that has caused me to question things or feel insecure… but the traditional community.; the lovely, kind, and bewildered people I’ve met while hiking, doing yoga in a park or coveting McDonalds Wi-Fi. These are the people that comment things like “You’re out here all alone?! Wow, you must be brave” or “Where’s your husband? What does he think about all this?!” While people certainly mean well by these comments, and I hold no ill-vibes towards them, it’s really made me pause and wonder what the heck our culture’s values are. Since the beginning of male-female dynamics, there’s been this power-play between man as strong and capable, and woman as supporter and nurturer. While I admire and cherish the supporter and nurturer in everyone (not just women), I’ve been bumping up against the sexist view that a woman can’t be alone because she needs protecting. I’ve had women say, “You’re out here hiking alone? I’d be too scared… what about bears and predators?” I’ve heard men say, “I’d never let my wife do what you’re doing… it’s too dangerous.” Now let me tell you why I believe that these beliefs are ass-backwards.

First, a big reason why people view something as “dangerous” or “irresponsible” is because they’ve never done anything similar to it in their lives. They listen to their true-crime podcasts while sitting on their comfy couches and hear horror stories about a woman found dead at the bottom of a cliff, or a man found dismembered in a hotel parking lot (if I hit a nerve there for anyone, let it go on record that I was the person I just described like… 3 weeks ago). These horror stories affirm the decision to stay inside, stay safe, and stay in certainty. For instance, someone who has only gone on day-hikes may view a backpacker as “hard-core” or “insane” for willing to be out in the woods for days on end. The fear that keeps them from trying it comes from never having tried it. Could that day-hiker discover after trying backpacking that it is indeed terrifying and dangerous? Sure! But more than likely, that day-hiker will come away with a new-found understanding of themselves and of the people that really exist “out there”, AND, most importantly, they will have tried. In my situation, people who have only hiked with their spouse or friends think it’s so dangerous to hike alone, but is it really? I pass like… 5 people every 30 minutes, I have cell service, I have a knife, I have water and granola bars and plenty of lung-power to scream “HEY BEAR!!!!” should the situation arise… it’s really not as dangerous as many people make it out to be. Have people died alone in the woods before? Definitely! But people have also died alone in their homes, on the street, in schools with teachers and peers, and in grocery stores. So all I’m saying in response to this first kind of comment I get is, try the things you view as admirable or interesting or cool but kinda scary. You’ll learn so much through the process, you’ll likely feel a tremendous amount of “hell yeah” for the fact that you tried (even if it doesn’t go as planned) and you’ll hopefully come away realizing that the fear that held you back is no longer necessary.

As for the second type of comment I get (the sexist ones)… all I have to say to the world is, STOP ASSOCIATING A PERSON’S COMPETENCY AND ABILITY WITH THEIR SEX. And to any man, woman, or person out there who won’t “allow” their spouse to dream of an opportunity and pursue it, quit tryna be God, cuz you ain’t. We are all people of free will and the thing is, we are all capable of anything we put our minds to regardless of what genitalia we were born with. Do I, as a woman have to deal with certain things that a man does not? SURE! Just this morning as I was doing yoga in a park in Lone Pine, CA, I began to feel a little uneasy only to look up and realize that a man who had been sitting at a table far off moved to a stream a few hundred feet from me and was watching me. Does that make me uncomfortable? Of course it does. However, I have control and agency over the situations I put myself in. If I begin to feel uncomfortable, I can move. I can get in my car and leave. I can scream and alert the other people in the downtown area that I may or may not be in danger. I can use my pepper spray. I can keep doing my yoga and assume that he’s just a creepy guy and not a predator (which I did, and a nice older couple came along and told him to stop staring at me and he left). That may have seemed somewhat rambly, but I use all of those possibilities to illustrate the fact that a potential danger should not necessarily keep anyone from doing something that would make them happy or bring them joy. If we all avoided anything potentially dangerous, what kind of life would that be? Every single person out there has some type of “lofty dream” that seems unattainable. On average, more women than men STILL end up giving up on their dreams due to a variety of reasons, one of them being that they are too afraid or have been told that it would be too dangerous as a woman, especially a woman alone. As a woman alone, I can attest to the fact that every single person I’ve met while traveling (apart from the park-bench creeper) has been welcoming, helpful, and interesting. Every time I’ve seen potentially dangerous wildlife, I scream “HEY BEAR” or sing “Memory” from CATS at the top of my lungs, and they leave. Every time I’ve slipped and hurt myself, I take a second to breathe, assess the situation, and I handle it. There’s no boogyman lurking in the forest to come eat you from inside your tent. There’s no pack of hillbilly’s in the trees waiting to steal all your belongings. And for sure, there’s not a single situation that you can’t handle.

I can’t sit here and tell you that nothing is actually dangerous and everything is easy and simple, and will turn out perfectly… because that’s just not true. Just like I know that it won’t be true of my trip! I’m sure I’ll bump into intense situations and moments of fear or uncertainty, but I have the belief in myself that I can handle anything that may come up, or I can call someone who can give me advice or assistance. There may certainly be flat tires, knocks on my window telling me “YOU CAN’T SLEEP HERE, MOVE NOW”, wildlife encounters, and the ever-present male gaze, but I, like anyone else out there, am competent and capable of handling, navigating, and integrating those experiences. So, long story short, it really is possible to do just about anything just about any time. Certain factors make those things easier or harder, like having kids, a disability, a financial hardship, or being in the middle of a devastating life shift, among other things, but you really can do just about anything you dream of. Maybe you can’t grow wings, but you can certainly complete that 50 mile backpacking loop you’ve been eye-balling. Maybe you can’t become James Franco, but you can absolutely drive across the country and see amazing things. Maybe you can’t be a snow leopard, but 100% you can audition for your local theater’s production of Guys and Dolls. And if you’re sitting there saying “no I can’t Morgan, you don’t know me”, you’re probably right about the not knowing you part… but I would challenge that you’re wrong about the “no I can’t” part.

If your inner world is telling you “I CAN’T, I CAN’T, I CAN’T” where is that voice coming from? Is it actually coming from you? Or perhaps a friend, a spouse, a protective parent, or the programming of your culture? If the voice comes from anywhere but your own intuitive voice, DISREGARD IT! Easier said than done, I know… it can take time and a tremendous amount of work to shed the beliefs of others from our belief in ourselves, but It’s 2022. DO YOU, BOO.

Love always,

-M-

Published by the_happy_hiker :)

I am a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, turned elementary music teacher, turned full-time Hotel Prius nomad. I live in my 2013 Prius with my partner, Mike, and our spunky pup, Poppy. I revel in backpacking, yoga, spiritual connection, and music and seek out opportunities to learn new things and expand. Really just another granola hippie fulfilling the stereotype.

One thought on “Solo Travel: Anyone’s Game

  1. I love how determined and all in you are! You are going to be learning things and making a lifetime of memories! Go Morgan! ❤️

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